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Old soldiers fire volley over defence cutbacks
ANGER: Colonel Ian Brazier, left, and Captain Joe Eastwood of the 2nd Bn Royal Regiment of Fusiliers heckle Defence Secretary Philip Hammond over the disbandment of their regiment on the first day of the Conservative Party conference.
A RETIRED colonel from Malvern has hit the headlines after giving Defence Secretary Philip Hammond a very public dressing-down.
Colonel Ian Brazier interrupted Mr Hammond at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Sunday, demanding to know why the second battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was set to be axed as part of the Government’s army cuts.
The 59-year-old, along with 76-year-old Captain Joe Eastwood from Cambridge, accused the minister of failing to answer questions around why the regiment – which he described as “the best recruited in the army” – was set to be disbanded.
“I write you letters, you don't respond,” he said. “The public must know the truth – the fusiliers are loyal soldiers, you have betrayed them. Sir, you need to be looking at defence. This is denial, not defence. You’re a disgrace.”
Col Brazier said he had made several requests to the Ministry of Defence asking why the battalion had been included in plans to reduce the number of serving soldiers from 102,000 to 82,000 but had not received a satisfactory response. Col Brazier, who works full time as the executive director of fostering charity the Foster Care Co-operative and also gave an address at last year’s Remembrance Day Service at St James’ Church, said: “I’m questioning the integrity of what’s been done. There are no minutes of when the decision was made to disband the battalion. It’s about openness and accountability within the Government “I’m not saying the cuts shouldn’t happen but they need to be informed and they need to be common sense. What this amounts to is penalising success.”
The battalion counted murdered soldier Lee Rigby among its members and was not originally part of the Government’s disbandment plan. Col Brazier – who served with both the second and third battalions of the regiment during his 34 years of service and is also chairman of the Fusiliers Association – said he had joined the Conservative Party just weeks ago specifically so he would be able to attend the conference and demand answers from Mr Hammond.
“I’m asking him to answer the questions I asked not the one he wants to answer,” he said. During the tirade Mr Hammond offered to meet with the pair to discuss their concerns and Col Brazier said he would be happy to take him up on the offer as long as it was done in a public forum.
Col Brazier, who also runs West Malvern Voices choir group, said he would not give up his quest for answers and would be marching on Parliament later this month in protest against the plans.